Gateway to the Classics: Among the Meadow People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
Among the Meadow People by  Clara Dillingham Pierson


E ARLY one wet morning, a long Earthworm came out of his burrow. He did not really leave it, but he dragged most of his body out, and let just the tip-end of it stay in the earth. Not having any eyes, he could not see the heavy, gray clouds that filled the sky, nor the milkweed stalks, so heavy with rain-drops that they drooped their pink heads. He could not see these things, but he could feel the soft, damp grass, and the cool, clear air, and as for seeing, why, Earthworms never do have eyes, and never think of wanting them, any more than you would want six legs, or feelers on your head.

This Earthworm had been out of his burrow only a little while, when there was a flutter and a rush, and Something flew down from the sky and bit his poor body in two. Oh, how it hurt! Both halves of him wriggled and twisted with pain, and there is no telling what might have become of them if another and bigger Something had not come rushing down to drive the first Something away. So there the poor Earthworm lay, in two aching, wriggling pieces, and although it had been easy enough to bite him in two, nothing in the world could ever bite him into one.

After a while the aching stopped, and he had time to think. It was very hard to decide what he ought to do. You can see just how puzzling it must have been, for, if you should suddenly find yourself two people instead of one, you would not know which one was which. At this very minute, who should come along but the Cicada, and one of the Earthworm pieces asked his advice. The Cicada thought that he was the very person to advise in such a case, because he had had such a puzzling time himself. So he said in a very knowing way: "Pooh! That is a simple matter. I thought I was two Cicadas once, but I wasn't. The thinking, moving part is the real one, whatever happens, so that part of the Worm which thinks and moves is the real Worm."

"I am the thinking part," cried each of the pieces.

The Cicada rubbed his head with his front legs, he was so surprised.

"And I am the moving part," cried each of the pieces, giving a little wriggle to prove it.

"Well, well, well, well!" exclaimed the Cicada, "I believe I don't know how to settle this. I will call the Garter Snake," and he flew off to get him.

A very queer couple they made, the Garter Snake and the Cicada, as they came hurrying back from the Snake's home. The Garter Snake was quite excited. "Such a thing has not happened in our meadow for a long time," he said, "and it is a good thing there is somebody here to explain it to you, or you would be dreadfully frightened. My family is related to the Worms, and I know. Both of you pieces are Worms now. The bitten ends will soon be well, and you can keep house side by side, if you don't want to live together."

"Well," said the Earthworms, "if we are no longer the same Worm, but two Worms, are we related to each other? Are we brothers, or what?"

"Why," answered the Garter Snake, with a funny little smile, "I think you might call yourselves half-brothers." And to this day they are known as "the Earthworm half-brothers." They are very fond of each other and are always seen together.

A jolly young Grasshopper, who is a great eater and thinks rather too much about food, said he wouldn't mind being bitten into two Grasshoppers, if it would give him two stomachs and let him eat twice as much.

The Cicada told the Garter Snake this one day, and the Garter Snake said: "Tell him not to try it. The Earthworms are the only meadow people who can live after being bitten in two that way. The rest of us have to be one, or nothing. And as for having two stomachs, he is just as well off with one, for if he had two, he would get twice as hungry."

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